SPOOKY BAKES, A FAREWELL

Halloween is such a nice theme for baking! Unfortunately, it is coming to an end, so I will share my last round up of all things spooky for 2020, the spookiest year ever. Cookies, cakes, eclairs, all frightfully delicious.

I will start with a very special recipe that reconnected me with a food blogger from my past, Helen Rennie. I used to read her food blog, called “Beyond Salmon” long before I considered starting my own site. The other day I was discussing eclairs with my tent-baker friend Carlos, and he told me his default recipe comes from a chef called Helen with a very popular youtube channel.  That Helen is the same Helen from Beyond Salmon! She quit blogging years ago and now concentrates on her tutorials on youtube and her cooking school in Boston. She is a wonderful person, and her videos on all things cooking from baking to sous-vide are a fantastic source of information. I followed her recipe for eclairs to make my mummies. Quite an odd statement, I admit. But aren’t they cute? I particularly love the wonky-eyed.

MUMMY ECLAIRS
(recipe and method from Helen Rennie)

for the pate a choux:
120g water
120g whole milk
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp sugar
113g butter at room temp, cut into 8 pieces
142g bread flour, sifted
230g eggs beaten with a fork

for diplomat cream:
(best made the day before)
100g eggs
32g cornstarch
242 g whole milk
242 g heavy cream
100g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
pinch of salt
40 g unsalted butter, cut in pieces
whipped cream, amount to taste

for icing decoration:
250 g Icing Sugar
15-25 ml water
candy eyes

Make pate a choux: Mix water, milk, salt and butter in a saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat until the butter melts completely and the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Mix until the flour is all incorporated, put it back into the heat, and set your timer for 5 minutes. Cook moving the dough constantly. At the end of 5 minutes you should see a film forming in the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the dough to a food processor, blitz for 10 seconds to allow steam to escape. With the process running, add the eggs in a stream, and process for 30 more seconds. The dough will be ready to use, but it’s best to place it in a piping bag and wait until it cools to around 80F, then it will be very easy to pipe in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Pipe lines with the size you like. Spray the surface with a little water and bake in a 375F oven, but reduce the temperature to 350F as soon as you place the sheet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, do not open the oven door during baking. Eclairs should be fully firm and golden brown. Cut small holes in the bottom to fill them later.

Make diplomat cream. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with cornstarch until fully combined. Place milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture and add to the eggs (this helps the cornstarch dissolve).

Add vanilla, sugar and pinch of salt to the saucepan with the milk/cream mixture. Bring to a full boil, add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture to temper it, whisking it well. Place the saucepan back in the stove, then add the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan. It should thicken very quickly. Make sure it is at full boil, then cook for 30 seconds longer. You need that to deactivate amylases present in the egg yolks, that would thin the sauce once it’s refrigerated.

Pass the cream through a sieve into a bowl, add the butter, and allow it to cool completely. To make diplomat cream, simply fold whipped cream, very cold, into the cold pastry cream and use it to fill the eclairs. You can vary the amount, I like around 25% whipped cream, but you can go 50:50 if you prefer. Fill the eclairs.

Make the icing decoration: sift the icing sugar into a bowl wide enough to allow you to dunk the eclairs. Add the water gradually until you have a thick consistency, you might not need all of the water, you don’t want it too thin. Dip the tops of the eclairs, place them in a rack and immediately add the eyes. Wait for 30 minutes or so before drizzling with the icing (place in a piping bag, no need for an icing tip, simply cut a small opening).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Helen’s video is very detailed, so if you’ve never baked eclairs (or choux pastry in general) and would like to give it a go, sit down with a cup of tea and you will soon be baking perfect examples of this classic French delicacy. You don’t need a star shaped piping tip, but I like the ridges they generate. I also followed her tutorial for pastry cream, which deals with two of the main issues when making it: grainy texture and thinning after refrigeration. When I had to prepare choux buns for the Great American Show, my worst fear was to see Paul or Sherry bite into one and have pastry cream dripping down the chin. But I was eliminated before that stressful situation ever materialized. Silver linings… (wink, wink).

SPOOKY SPICED SUGAR COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360g unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
150g granulated sugar
50g brown sugar
226g unsalted butter cup, cold & cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Mix the flour with salt, baking powder and all the spices and reserve. Cream the butter with both sugars in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer. Add the egg slowly and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until a dough starts to form.

Remove from the mixer, pat into a disc and roll out to your desired thickness, depending on the type of cookie you intend to bake. Cut the cookies and freeze them for 10 minutes (or several hours) before baking.

Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes, until edges start to brown. Cool on a rack before decorating.

Make Royal Icing in black and orange colors. My favorite recipe can be found at Tanya’s site with a click here.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

To make the stenciled cookie, I flooded the whole cookie with orange Royal Icing, and allowed it to fully set for a couple of hours. I don’t have one of those magnetic gadgets to hold the stencil firmly on top of the cookie, so I improvised. I placed a cookie cutter on top of the stencil, and that was enough to get a sharp design with the air-brush, using black dye. Allow the design to dry for a couple of hours and you’ll be ready to enjoy your spooky cookie!

All other designs were made with regular flooding and piping with small size tips.

Moving on…. CUPCAKES!

SPOOKY CARROT CUPCAKES
(adapted from several sources)

225g carrots, peeled and finely grated
2 eggs, room temperature
50g buttermilk
300g sugar
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla paste
200g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

to decorate:
very small amount of buttercream (store-bought or home-made)
fondant
stencil of your choice + airbrushing (optional)

Heat oven to 325°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together carrots, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, oil, and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes then invert them out to cool completely.

Roll out fondant, decorate with the stencil of your choice, or generate a pattern with a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter to make circles large enough to coat the top of each cake. Spread a very thin coating of buttercream on the top of each cupcake, then place the circle of fondant on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Two details matter in using marzipan on top of cupcakes. First, you must roll it thin, so that it won’t be a heavy layer on top. Second, you must cut it large enough to wrap all the way to the edges. I had never attempted to air-brush marzipan, and ran into some problems. It was hard to place the stencil firmly on top without it glueing on the surface and making a mess when lifting it. I probably should have allowed the marzipan to dry a little more before decorating it, but I was afraid it would then crack when I tried to top the cake with it. That led me to switch to plan B: I gathered the messed up marzipan discs, re-rolled them and used a patterned rolling pin to decorate. I like the way it turned out, the little bit of orange dye from the air-brushing ended up as a marbled effect. As you can see in the photo above, I managed to get one cupcake with the stencil in reasonable good shape.

SPIDER WEB BROWNIE CUPCAKE
(adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)

120g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
120g unsalted butter
113g (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
250g granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

for the icing:
50g whole milk
zest from one orange
½ teaspoon orange extract (I use Olive Nation)
175g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
drop of orange food color (optional)

tempered dark chocolate to decorate

Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water; stir until smooth. You can also use a microwave at 50% power. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat chocolate mixture and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, then add the vanilla paste. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the icing: Bring milk and orange zest to a simmer in a saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let milk infuse for 10 minutes with the zest. Add orange extract, and pass the milk through a sieve into a bowl. Add the powdered sugar to get a thick enough consistency to cover each cupcake with a thin layer, and a drop of orange color if you so desire. Let it set completely for a couple of hours, then add a spider web made in tempered chocolate on top. Alternatively, you can use Royal Icing to draw a web, or simplify it and add just some sprinkles, orange and black.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These brownie cupcakes are extremely versatile, in fact I am planning a full post about them. They bake flat, which makes it easy to decorate with this type of simple icing that you can take in several directions. You can infuse flavors into the milk  such as tea, lavender, or other extracts. Tempering chocolate is a bit involved, so if you prefer to simplify, just add halloween sprinkles. It will be totally fine.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Alternative decoration

 

FRIENDLY GHOST PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE MARBLED CAKE
(adapted from Recipe Girl)

for the pumpkin batter:
85g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g granulated white sugar
1 large egg
80g canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

for the chocolate batter:
150g semisweet chocolate, chopped
170g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, at room temperature
250g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
170g all-purpose flour

to decorate:
fondant
1/4 cup powdered sugar
warm water, just enough to make a thick paste with the sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and coat with parchment paper.

Make the pumpkin batter: In a small bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with the butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar until well incorporated. Beat in the egg, and then add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Stir in the flour. Reserve.

Prepare the chocolate butter: In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan with 1-inch of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat at low speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Fold in the melted chocolate. Sift the flour over the batter and fold it in just until combined.

Spread the chocolate batter evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of the pumpkin batter all over the top. Using chopsticks, wirl the pumpkin batter slightly into the chocolate. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut into squares.

To decorate, roll out fondant very thinly. Cut ghost shapes with a cookie cutter, then draw eyes with a black food pen, or royal icing. Make a little paste with powdered sugar and water, then use it to glue the decoration on each piece of cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Fondant is not a crowd-pleaser, but I wanted something as white as possible, so marzipan was not the best option. I decided that fondant haters could always peel the decoration off and enjoy the cake without it. The cake is very delicious, moist and tender, quite simple to prepare.

That’s all for now, my friends… I really had a lot of fun with Halloween-baking this year, and it’s a bit sad to see it end. Let’s hope 2021 will bring a bit of normalcy to our lives, with in-person trick or treating, Halloween parties, and a certain virus as a scare of the past.

ONE YEAR AGO: Fall-Inspired Baking

TWO YEAR AGO: On a Halloween Roll

THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Zucchini, Lemon & Walnut Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

SIX YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

NINE YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

TEN YEARS AGO: Panmarino

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

 

 

CAULIFLOWER STEAKS WITH OLIVE AND CAPER SALSA

Nothing irritates a true vegetarian more than giving names like “steak” to a veggie dish to make it more appealing. My apologies, I have no intention of ruffling feathers, it’s just not as sexy to call it “Cauliflower Slices.” I’ve made a version of it in the past, but this one is so much better that it almost makes me want to go back and delete that post. This is cauliflower steak done to perfection, and I thank my friend Eha for introducing it to me. It will go in our regular rotation. For sure.

CAULIFLOWER STEAKS WITH OLIVE AND CAPER SALSA
(adapted from Cook Republic)

for the cauliflower:
1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil

for the salsa:
60g pitted green olives
2 tablespoons baby capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
chopped fresh parsley to taste
20ml extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 325FC. Cover a baking dish with aluminum foil and drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil. Place the cauliflower on a chopping board, resting on the stalk. Holding the head gently, slice the cauliflower into 5-6 thick slices (each about 1 inch wide).
Place the cauliflower slices on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the top with remaining olive oil.

Roast for 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425F. Roast for a further 15-20 minutes at this higher temperature till the cauliflower is starting to char and brown nicely. Remove from the oven and set aside.


Place all ingredients for the salsa in a small bowl. Whisk very well. Spoon prepared salsa over the cauliflower steaks. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt flakes, freshly ground black pepper and chopped parsley.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: My only modification to the recipe was to reduce the amount of olive oil in the salsa and add lemon juice. For my taste, the olives add enough luscious fat, and the salsa tasted lighter and “brighter” with less oil and some extra acidity. Go with what rocks your own boat. Your kitchen, your rules.

What is wonderful about this recipe is the method to roast it. Lower temperature first, don’t mess with it, allow it to cook at a slow pace. Then increase the temperature and take it as far as you like. The salsa, cold and tangy, on top of that perfectly cooked slice of cauliflower? Perfection on a plate. I urge you to give this a try.

Eha, thanks so much for introducing me to this recipe in particular,
and to Cook Republic. I am following…

ONE YEAR AGO: Twice-Cooked Eggplant

TWO YEARS AGO:  Turkey Burger, Japanese-Style

THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooked Whole Chicken

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting

SIX YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey-Mustard Dressing

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen on Fire!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

NINE YEARS AGO: Chiarello’s Chicken Cacciatore

TEN YEARS AGO: Donna Hay’s Thai-Inspired Dinner

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Panettone

 

 

 

A FRUITFUL TRIO

Three fruits, three macarons… Watermelons, Blueberries and Apples, each using a slightly different technique for piping the shells. For the watermelon version, I share two styles for the shells, with the same buttercream filling.

APPLE CIDER MACARONS
(inspired by Broma Bakery)

for shells:
3 egg whites (check the weight, mine were 103g)
same amount of granulated sugar (103g)
same amount of fine almond flour (103g)
same amount of powdered sugar (103g)
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
pinch of cream of tartar
food gel color, yellow and green (8:1)

for filling:
113g unsalted butter (softened)
360g powdered sugar (about 3 cups)
4 tablespoons apple cider
pinch of salt

for decoration:
brown Candy Melts
air-brush color, red and orange

Mix 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar with the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer. Place over simmering water and whisk for about 2 minutes until sugar is dissolved (temperature should be around 150F).

Place bowl in the KitchenAid and whisk in medium-speed, slowly adding the rest of the granulated sugar. Whisk for about 4 minutes, until thick peaks form. Add vanilla and food coloring (I added yellow and green).

Pipe shells in shape of an apple, let it dry until a skin forms.  Bake at 300F for about 12 minutes, until the top does not move when you gently try to twist it around. Color half of the shell with airbrush, I used a mixture of red and orange colors, eye-balling to get the tone I wanted.

Make the stems by piping Candy Melts on parchment paper. Make more stems than you’ll need, as they might break.

Make the filling by creaming the butter for a couple of minutes, then adding the powdered sugar, cider and salt. Adjust consistency with milk if needed, or more powdered sugar.

Fill shells, match them, and add the stems. Let the macarons mature overnight in the fridge before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The macaron recipe is the one I’ve been playing with recently, from Broma Bakery. I just adapted it to make it in proportion to the weight of a given number of egg whites, because it simplifies everything quite a bit. I love how these turned out, air-brushing really adds a lot to the shells, but if you don’t have it, they will be fine without it. You can also make the macarons round and add just the stem, or maybe the stem and a little leaf, also piped with Candy Melts, dyed green.

Next time you want to make macarons, think about the size of the batch you need.
A small batch? Grab two egg whites, weigh them and add the other ingredients, all with the exact same amount by weight.
A regular batch (enough for about 24-30 macs?) Grab three egg whites.
A big batch? Four egg whites. That would probably be my limit, macaronage on a bigger batch might be tricky. 

BLUEBERRY CLUSTER MACARONS
(inspired by Veronika Gowan)

Macarons made with this recipe, using gel food dye purple, from Artisan Accents)

Macaronage kept a bit thicker than normal, so that shells can be piped without losing their individual circles. Most of the batter was placed in a bag with a regular icing tip for macarons (80-100mm), and a very small amount was placed in a bag without any tip, with a small opening cut with scissors. That was used to pipe the little round stem spots.

When you pipe the cluster, make sure each “blueberry” is kept small, so that the final macaron is not huge.

for the filling:
1/4 cup blueberry jam (store-bought or homemade)
113g butter, softened
240g powdered sugar
lest of 1 lemon
lemon juice to taste
pinch of salt

Pipe the cluster of three small berries. Tap the tray to release air bubbles, but be gentle, you don’t want the circles to join too much. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes, then pipe the round stem centers. Let the shells dry until a skin forms, then bake as normally (300F for about 12 minutes).

Make the lemon buttercream by whisking the softened butter for a couple of minutes in a KitchenAid type mixer. Add the lemon zest and whisk another 30 seconds, then the powdered sugar in a few batches in very low speed. Slowly increase the speed once the sugar is starting to get incorporated, add the lemon juice, salt, and whisk at high speed for a couple of minutes. Adjust consistency with more lemon juice or powdered sugar, as needed.

Fill the shells with a dollop of jam in the center and lemon buttercream around, as shown in the picture below.  Let the macarons mature in the fridge overnight before enjoying.

Comments: Veronika Gowan makes incredible macarons, perfect examples of fruits and even vegetables (she recently made unique and exquisite chanterelle macarons). I need to practice my piping skills for very delicate features, but in the case of blueberry clusters, next time I will add the stem decoration by painting. I think they will be more delicate and maybe more realistic that way. You can click on her instagram feed to see many of her amazing productions.

WATERMELON MACARONS, TWO WAYS
(piping inspired by Pies and Tacos)

for shells:
same recipe as Apple Cider macarons above, separated in three batches: green, light green (or left un-dyed), and watermelon (pink and red 2:1)

for filling:
200g powdered sugar
60g unsalted butter softened
1/2 tsp Amoretti watermelon emulsion (adjust to taste)
milk or heavy cream to adjust consistency of buttercream
pinch of salt

to decorate:
edible food marker, black

You will pipe the shells in three concentric colors, starting with the dark green, then light (or un-dyed), then watermelon After that you tap the tray to release bubbles as normally, just don’t be too harsh.

Once baked, you can fill them and do the final decoration with a black marker. You might have leftover batter of one or two colors (I had both green colors leftover). In this case, use them as the back of your macaron, or come up with a totally different design. Go with the flow, dance to the Macaron Music… 

To make the watermelon buttercream, follow the general method of the lemon buttercream above, but use watermelon flavor added to the butter after it is creamed. Then proceed with the powdered sugar addition and milk or cream, if needed.

Alternative design for watermelon macarons

You can simplify things and pipe shells of two different colors, matching one green and one watermelon-color. I air-brushed some pink luster on the shell, but that is just a bit of icing on the cake…  😉

After filling the macarons with watermelon buttercream,  make little seed markings with black food marker, and as always, let the macarons sit in the fridge overnight for proper maturation of the shells.

I hope you enjoyed these variations on my favorite cookie. I have been practicing with different shapes, and results are not always that great, but I still have fun trying…

ONE YEAR AGO: Halloween Entremet Cake

TWO YEAR AGO: Pork with Prunes, Olives and Capers

THREE YEARS AGO: Kansas Corn Chowder

FOUR YEARS AGO: Impossibly Cute Bacon and Egg Cups

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pulling Under Pressure

SIX YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic

EIGHT YEARS AGO: On my desk

NINE YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

TEN YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo